6 Key Strategies That Make Our Campus Partners Stronger…and Help Us Serve Campuses
I have worked in enrollment management for 25 years, both as a campus professional and as a consultant to more than 100 colleges and universities. I have now taken on a new role as the senior vice president of client experience and engagement, otherwise known as being the “voice of our clients” to the company. This new responsibility led me to reflect back on my enrollment experience working on campus and working for campuses in the area of student success and satisfaction.
As we are working hard as a company to ensure that our clients are satisfied and successful in reaching their goals, I am reminded that many of the same principles we use and advise on campus are directly applicable—and that often the voices of our constituents can get lost in our day-to-day work without a continuous, intentional commitment to amplifying them.
This reflection inspired me to turn back to a number of the recommendations I have made to campuses over the years which help me to inform the practice of my new role. This was a year like no other, and yet students (and you) remain at the center of our work. While many of the expectations of both students and our RNL partners may have changed, there are still a number of the tried and true strategies we need to continue to consider.
1. Students expect excellent communication
One of the most common complaints among students about campuses’ COVID response was a failure to communicate with accuracy, timeliness, and compassion. Pandemic or otherwise though, consider how we are communicating with students about key interactions and milestones, such as advising, registration, financial aid awards, billing, and more. Have we looked at the means we are communicating to ensure it is relevant and timely (like texting, AI, social media)? Have we looked at the language we use to communicate our messaging lately (positive vs. punitive)? I would encourage us to take time over this summer to really examine the messaging we are sending to students—based on what you read, would you want to come back to campus this fall or have your child come back?
2. Collaboration is the key to success
Make sure we have created intentional ways for departments on campus to work together. Many campuses really met this head on during the pandemic, quickly implementing technology assets to support remote meetings, chat features for communication, and cross training teams to respond to questions that may have once been outside their purview. Let’s not stop now! Whether we are returning to campus or planning for hybrid or some other model, we need to continue to ramp up working with one another—and rewarding our colleagues for that collaborative spirit.
3. Students expect to be heard
There are a number of ways that this can be done on campuses, from student satisfaction assessments and motivational assessments many RNL campus partners use to strategies such as focus group sessions, “Dine with the Dean,” informal gatherings in the residence halls, and even feedback from student employees in your departments. Even more—they want to know what you did with that feedback. To that end, how are we tracking their feedback in ways which are actionable in our CRM, SIS, or advising systems? How do we let them know, “We heard you and here is what we are doing”?
4. Students expect simplicity
Think about our policies, processes, and procedures in the ways we interact with students. In every way we can, we should seek to reduce friction and pave a clear pathway for our students to interact with us. We still need to find ways to reduce red tape, simplify our website navigation, clarify billing and financial aid, unify and organize content across channels, and write communications in plain, jargon-free language.
5. Saying “thank you” to our employees never goes out of style
I used to say, “happy students = happy staff,” but the reverse is also true. Demonstrating our appreciation for our teams is an important and necessary practice and can go far in building trust—both virtually and in-person. Teams need to trust one another to collaborate, and they need to trust their leaders in order to carry out excellent service to students.
6. Trust is at the center of the student experience
Students come to an institution seeking something that we have promised to them as our brand. Our offer of admission is our way of telling the student, “We believe you are a good match here, and we are here to help support you in meeting your goals.” Trust is complex and can be quickly lost through one small interaction. But it also can be earned or re-gained through a commitment by each of us, every day, to serve our students with respect and compassion. As John C. Maxwell said, “Students don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.”
We want to hear your voice
As I approach my new work at RNL, this list is something I can come back to time and again—to remind us that as we ask our campuses to behave in this way, we also must model that same behavior to our campus partners.
If you are a current RNL partner—THANK YOU for your partnership and trust. We want to hear your voice as we work to continuously improve our products and services to keep that trust – so please feel free to reach out and give us your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are at an institution that is not part of the RNL family now, family, we hope you will give us a chance to earn that trust and demonstrate how our brand promise: “To make colleges, universities, and nonprofits successful and vibrant through inspired and relevant engagement.” Reach out to us and we’ll set up a time to talk about how we can work with you to achieve your goals and serve your students.